#IndieApril Reads: Getting Real

Welcome back to my last post of the month for #IndieApril! It’s been great to be able to talk about just a handful of the amazing indie authors present in the writing community whom I’ve gotten to know, and whose work is so good it’s honestly a lot better than many of the trade paperbacks I pick up at the bookstore all the time. I’ve talked about romances and fantasies so far, so this week I’m going to get a little more real.

Not that these works don’t still have elements of those things in them: far from it. But the reason I call this post “Getting Real” is because the issues addressed in these books, from morality to identity and even addictions and abuse, are the real crux of the storytelling and the characters and they do so well what almost every story tries to do: address real-world issues in the form of fiction. And they do it in ways that will both surprise and excite you, as well as tug rather painfully on your heartstrings. So without further ado, let’s meet the authors!

 

Brooklynn Dean: The Word of the Rock God

Likely inspired by Supernatural and other dark fantasy hits, The Word of the Rock God is a biblically-themed, grunge-tastic look at the nature of fame, the importance of having a moral code and being your authentic self, and the responsibilities that recognition brings. Young rock band frontman Max lives by a strict, religiously-motivated moral code: he doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and doesn’t chase women as he tries to use his music to reach out to people and show them the love he wants to feel for himself. But even though Max is a pretty good guy, temptation can strike anyone and find the cracks in anyone’s armor.

Max is much more than just some wannabe rock star: he’s a prophet, and that means the forces of heaven and hell are each out to recruit him and his influence to their side. But often the path of righteousness can be difficult to walk, while the one of sin is much easier and more appealing. Soon, Max finds himself caught up in a bizarre relationship with a girl he knows deep down is trouble, but he can’t pull himself out of his shame and self-pity to do anything about it. The fate of his soul and maybe the world rests in the balance.

I honestly found this book so fascinating not only because of the strength of the characters, who from heaven to hell and everything in between are multi-dimensional and well-constructed, but because of the super-cool spin on traditional religious belief that comes into this world of rock and roll. It’s a great reworking of the classic temptation tale in a way that young readers these days would, I think, find very appealing and meaningful. Sure, there’s a good deal of sex, drugs, and…you know…but the core message of the story–how important it is to know who you are–is one I think we can all get behind, and it’ll keep you guessing right up until the end. If you think you know how this story’s going to end, you’re wrong.

 

L. Costevelos: Wanderlust

Speaking of not knowing how things are going to end, look no further for a twisting, turning, strange land and funhouse-type thrill ride than Wanderlust, but L. Costevelos. A fresh new take on the always-fertile ground laid by Alice in Wonderland, this book finds the young female protagonist, Raine Black, under investigation for the gruesome murder of her abusive husband. But did Raine really kill him, or is there something else going on?

Nothing is as it seems. Through Raine’s eyes, we see how an encounter with a monster leads her literally through the looking-glass into an alternate universe called Wanderlust, populated by bizarre creatures, rife with dangerous and deadly magic, and ruled by a lonely king who Raine finds herself drawn to more and more. But as her fantasy world and the real one increasingly collide, Raine is torn between them, two relationships, and whether or not she can ever find where she is truly happy.

Part crime thriller, part psychedelic head trip, and all fantastical adventure, Wanderlust is one heck of a thrill ride. Imagine Alice combined with a police procedural and that’s what we’ve got here: and I promise you, it’s pretty awesome. The incredibly emotional depiction of Raine’s failing marriage and her conflicted feelings about Nicholas, the king of Wanderlust, is so vivid and real I almost teared up a couple of times–and that’s saying something. I don’t think I’ve read many books that were as impactful as this one, and if you’re looking for a totally engrossing page-turner, I’d highly recommend this one.

 

Chelsea Lauren: Underneath the Whiskey

I promised one of thees would be totally real-life and normal, didn’t I? Well even if I didn’t, Underneath the Whiskey is definitely the most grounded of the books I’ve talked about, and possibly the most emotionally raw and revealing.

Ben Jacobson does pretty well: he’s the owner of a local coffee chain, married to a loving wife, and has great kids who he’s totally devoted to. But that’s not all he is, and it’s driving him crazy. For years, Ben has hidden his real self from his family, and a secret that could tear everything in his life apart: the fact that he’s actually gay. But after years of repression, painful conversion therapy, and enduring society’s hostility toward him, he’s all but given up on truly being happy. Everything get’s upended, though, when Caden, a new bartender at his shop, walks into his life and makes Ben feel things he hasn’t let himself feel in a long, long time. Driven to drink by his overwhelming misery and intractable situation, Ben drives those he loves away as he sinks deeper into depression, and soon he faces a choice: can he climb out of the bottle and do what he needs to do to finally be honest with himself and others, or will he continue on a path of self-destruction?

I know it’s become a touchy subject these days who can write what person’s story, but if there was any doubt in your mind that a female writer could expertly depict the mindset and character of a closeted gay man in a believable way, leave them at the door now. This book was so powerfully authentic that it left me totally overwhelmed, from the delightful interplay and heated drama between the characters to the very real issues it deals with, and especially how it addresses people in similar situations and what they can do to get help when they need it. This is one of those stories that I think everyone should read, and I don’t say that kind of thing lightly. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is always an educational experience, and this book is no exception. Be prepared to be heartbroken, but also to be enlightened.

 

Well, that about does it! Happy #IndieApril everyone, and please help our self-published authors out by following them and buying their books!

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